CPAC VI: Who Represents Us?

April 27, 2018
Seigle Hall, Room 248
Tiffany D. Barnes (University of Kentucky)

“Voting Procedures and Women’s Access to Power: A Quasi-Experiment in Argentina” (with Carolina Tchintian and Santiago Alles)

How does ballot structure shape women’s access to political power? We argue that if gender bias is at work in the electorate, ballots that encourage voters to make a discrete decision for each race, voters are more likely to split their ticket to divert support from female candidates competing for municipal level office, thereby limiting women’s access to elected positions. By contrast, when ballots encourage strait ticket voting, the electoral fate of mayoral candidates—both women and men—are more likely to be influenced by the popularity of candidates at the top of the ballot than by gender bias. We leverage data from three elections and a novel ballot reform in Salta, Argentina—the Australian ballot was incrementally introduced over multiple elections—to empirically assess how ballot structure influences women’s access to the mayoral post. This identification strategy allows us to treat our data as a quasi-experiment. Employing a difference-in-difference approach we first demonstrate that precincts using the Australian ballot, rather than the French ballot, have significantly higher rates of ballot splitting and roll-off. Then, exploiting data from approximately 900 mayoral candidates across 54 municipalities over three election cycles, we show that the introduction of the Australian ballot was associated with a decline in electoral support for female mayoral candidates.

Nicholas Carnes (Duke University)

Blinded by Wealth? What Voters Think About the Descriptive Underrepresentation of the Working Class” (with Noam Lupu)

Politicians the world over are vastly better off than the citizens they represent. Could that be because citizens simply do not know—or do not care—that their elected officials are so affluent? We analyze data from Argentina, Britain, and the US, three countries with longstanding imbalances in the social class makeup of government. We placed questions that asked about voters’ perceptions of the social class makeup of their national legislatures on the 2015 Argentine Panel Election Study, a 2016 YouGov UK survey in Britain, and the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study in the US. In all three countries, voters substantially underestimated the economic gap between politicians and citizens, and even voters who favored significant increases in working-class representation did not think differently about other issues, participate more actively, or vote differently. There appear to be important limits to how much voters know and care about government by the privileged.

Simon Chauchard (Dartmouth College)

“Beyond Coethnicity: Political Influence in Ethnically Diverse Societies” (with Neelanjan Sircar)

In most emerging democracies, influential local citizens help shape the electoral choicesof other voters. This article explores the extent to which these individuals (“influencers” hereafter) direct their influence towards voters from their own ethnic group vs. other groups. Contrary to common but simplistic assumptions, we argue that influence does not always flow a long ethnic lines in ethnicized societies: voters are often likely to be influenced by non-coethnics. This is because diversity at the local level, if combined with the existence of a market for political influence at the local level, provides strong incentives for relatively skilled influencers (“dominant influencers” hereafter) to add non-coethnics to their network.To test this argument, we identify the main influencers across a large sample of villages in rural Bihar (India). We then rely on a cross-referencing exercise between influencers and voters to compare the networks of “dominant influencers” vs. others. Results support our argument: when they have achieved dominance in the local market for influence (denoting that they are by far the most influential individuals at the local level), “influencers” are as likely to count coethnics as non-coethnics in their networks. These findings contribute tothe empirical literature on political campaigns in India, and beyond, in ethnicized polities.They also help explain why ethnic preferences do not always transform into ethnic votes: namely, because local-level networks through which many voters are mobilized and receive assistance are often multi-ethnic.

Amanda Clayton (Vanderbilt University)

Anything for the Party? Gender and Party Discipline in Sub-Saharan Africa” (with Pär Zetterberg, Robert Mattes, and Shaheen Mazaffar)

A great deal of case-based research suggests that gender power asymmetries within legislatures form and constrain women representatives’ willingness and capacity to act for women in legislative spaces. Here we examine how gender interacts with one informal legislative institution: party discipline. Using original survey data from over 800 members of parliament across 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa on self-reported measures of party discipline, we find that women parliamentarians are significantly less likely to act in ways that go counter to the wishes of their party, such as voting across party lines or opposing the party’s positions. This trend holds when controlling for other MP characteristics such as the MP’s party, time in office, and ministerial and party leadership positions as well as pre-election variables, including education and previous political experience. Moreover, we find that women MPs with higher levels of party discipline are less likely to list women’s rights as a top government priority. We discuss the implications for the substantive representation of women’s interests in legislative institutions. 

Diana O’Brien (Texas A&M University)

“Pitch Perfect: Vocal Pitch and the Emotional Intensity of Congressional Speech on Women” (with Bryce Dietrich and Matthew Hayes)

Can legislative speech provide insights into legislators’ emotional commitment to particular issue areas? Do other legislators respond to emotional speech? We construct a novel measure of speakers’ emotional intensity—small changes in vocal pitch that are difficult to control—and examine House members’ speech about women. Using the text and audio from nearly 75,000 floor speeches, we show that female MCs are both more likely to talk about women and to do so with greater emotional intensity. This speech, in turn, affects male legislators. More female speech, delivered with greater intensity, is associated with increases in the amount and intensity of male speech about women. To establish whether this reflects a positive or negative response, we show that male legislators who spoke in response to women were more likely to vote with those female legislators, providing some cause for optimism concerning the power of emotionally intense legislative speech.

Johanna Rickne (Stockholm University)

The Rise of the Radical Right in Sweden: Consequences for Political Selection” (with Ernesto Dal Bó, Frederico Finan, Olle Folke, and Torsten Persson)

We study changes in Sweden’s political class during the rapid rise of the Sweden Democrats, a radical right party that went from being of negligible importance in 2006 to the third largest party in 2014. We associate the growth in support for the Sweden Democrats to a series of policy reforms in 2006 that led to a significant widening of the income gap between those robustly attached to the labor market (the “insider” workers) and those with precarious attachment (the “outsiders,” including primarily the sick and the non-stably employed). We show that the Sweden Democrats grew by supplying politicians that closely resemble the population mix of core vs non-core, while the mainstream parties maintained a “product-line” of mostly high-earning core members of the labor force. At the same time, the Sweden Democrat candidates have less educational attainment, and less experience in politics and the public sector. Thus, the growth of the Sweden Democrats increased descriptive representation of the economically disenfranchised, but did so at the cost of lowering the average level of policy expertise in the political class.

Leslie Schwindt-Bayer (Rice University)

“Estimating Causal Relationships Between Women’s Representation in Government and Corruption” (with Justin Esarey)

Fifteen years ago, a pair of studies on gender and corruption established a correlation between women’s representation in legislatures and lower levels of political corruption (Dollar, Fisman and Gatti, 2001; Swamy et al., 2001). However, the causal relationship between these factors is still unclear. Does increasing the representation of women in government lead to less corruption, or does corruption deter the election of women? Are these effects large enough to be substantively meaningful? Some research suggests that having women in legislatures reduces corruption levels because women are more risk-averse than men, and therefore less likely to engage in corruption when it is risky. Other research suggests that corruption is a deterrent to women’s representation because it reinforces clientelistic networks that privilege men. Using instrumental variables, we find strong evidence that women’s representation decreases corruption and that corruption decreases women’s participation in government; both effects are substantively significant.

You can find the program here.